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Thursday 24 March 2011

The Way White Woman are Portrayed in Bollywood

I recently received an email from a reader (a white woman from the US with an Indian husband). She wrote to me with concern about the way white women are portrayed in Bollywood. In particular, she feels that the stereotype of white women as disposable sexual objects is a key factor in the problems that white women face in India.
She wrote this letter to an editor of a newspaper after her first trip to India a number of years back.
Dear Editor,
Bollywood has been engaging in a disturbing trend. The Indian film industry has propagated harmful stereotypes of Westerners (especially white women) in almost all films set in America and the United Kingdom. Caucasian women are consistently portrayed as scantily dressed dancers, crazy, drug addicts, deficient in some other manner, or even as prostitutes. Westerners are rarely presented as suitable or desirable spouses. During my entire lifetime in the United States I have never witnessed a group of American women spontaneously start dancing in revealing costumes.

Americans prize their freedom and exercise this right to make personal decisions to be chaste, monogamous, or promiscuous. Indians make these same sexual choices. A key difference between these two cultures is that Americans often are more open about their decisions than Indians, who usually choose to keep their sexual behavior private. However, it is unfair and inaccurate for Bollywood to portray all Caucasian women as always promiscuous.

As the wife of an Indian emigrant, I have visited India and anticipate many more future trips to my husband’s homeland. While I appreciate and enjoy several aspects of Indian culture, I am dismayed by my frequent encounters with negative stereotypes of Americans held by many Indians both in India and abroad.
No one likes to be treated as a stereotype, including Indians.

I respectfully ask members of the Indian community to reject stereotypes of Westerners portrayed by Bollywood films. It is my fervent hope that when my Anglo-Indian daughter visits India she will be treated with the same dignity and fairness that every person should receive, regardless of the fact that she has a mixed Indian and European-American heritage.

Now, you might want to jump in and say that Hollywood also portrays white women as sexual objects. However, my reader makes the counter point that Hollywood usually portrays Indians in a positive light. Indians in American films and televisions shows are usually doctors or techies. She says that she would much rather have her ethnicity and gender portrayed as computer geeks than prostitutes! She also goes on to say:
I think Bollywood perpetuates harmful stereotypes of white women because this is what the Indian public wants to see and it helps sell more movie tickets. This negative impression of western women is deeply ingrained in the Indian psyche and may have something to do with a colonial mental hangover of the white woman previously being unattainable during the days of the Raj. How fun to transform an unattainable woman of the conquering elite to a inane sexual toy readily available to the Indian male for pleasure but not commitment!

So, what do you think? Since I'm engaged to an indian man myself, I felt this is a relevant and hot topic for discussion.

Bump up my post on Mom Blog Network


  1. Not to sound terrible but if you watch a lot of American movies you will see white women portrayed as sexual objects as well. And how about the stereotypes of Indian women and men in American movies.

    I am not saying it is good or bad but the assumptions and stereotypes go in all directions.


  2. This is a very interesting post. I never would have known that that is how western women are being portrayed in India had you not posted this, so thank you for educating me a bit. : ) I agree that stereotypes are all over the place...but how do we truly overcome them? I wish I had all the answers. Have a good Saturday and if you wouldn't mind when you get a chance please check us out over at


  3. Which movies are these that the Western women are portrayed as such? Can she list them? I'm an Indian who was born and brought up in the UK and currently residing in the US. I watch Bollywood movies as well as some Western movies, and I have not seen in any Bollywood movie where they're portrayed as prostitues or drug addicts. They are however portrayed as loose women with low morals when the Indian man is seeking to marry her. By Indian standards and according to Indian culture, yes it would seem that the Western woman does have low morals. Generally in India, neither the man or woman date prior to marriage, it's expected that they're virgins, so in such a culture, if a woman sleeps even with one man, she would be seen as a woman of bad character. You have to view both cultures independently. Further, it has nothing to do with the unatainable woman of the colonial times,(there were a number of Maharajas that did marry Western women FYI, not just White women but also, Turkish, Spanish and Greek women also.). If it were that, then hoards of us would be chasing white women, which is not the case at all. Talking about stereotypes, that lady might want to watch "Out Sourced"! Although funny, it is sterotypical and offensive to a number of Indians.


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